The IBEW Health and Safety Committee reviewed the Deer Park incident; PG&E recently concluded the incident investigation and a report was distributed to employees. The committee commented on the high quality of the investigation and report, which identified unusual contributing factors and procedural methods that lead to two burn injuries and the partial destruction of a home under renovation. The investigation identified over ten corrective actions related to the incident that immediately halted the practice of replacing service valve tangs that are broken or severely frozen. The directive has since been relaxed to include replacement once upstream gas has been controlled.
PG&E Vice President John Higgins recently lent his support to IBEW 1245’s Control the Pressure peer to peer committee in their effort to set up a safety meeting schedule with Title 200 gas employees during the year 2017. CTP will be reaching out to employees through safety meetings to explain how CTP works and will be recruiting members who are interested in serving as safety stewards in the union-based peer program. The CTP committee conducted 26 meetings in 2016. Anyone interested in more information can contact Rich Lane at email@example.com or 209-202-9492.
A PG&E gas employee came to the aid of an elderly couple who were involved in a motor vehicle accident on Southbound 101 near Willits. The employee witnessed the accident several cars ahead of his and notified a fire chief stopped in traffic behind him, and both rendered aid while waiting for EMS. The elderly couple were both injured and the employee and chief blocked traffic until emergency responders arrived.
On December 23, 2016 a final incident report was issued by PG&E related to the February 27, 2016 incident in which a transmission crew working lost control of a 790 lb. piece of pole that was being lifted using a ½” rope. The rope was not rated for the load and broke, dropping the piece onto the cab of a 77’ line truck, damaging the door. There were no injuries reported, and the SIF investigation cited contributing factors, as the crew used an improper lifting device to lift the load, did not know the weight of the load being lifted, and had not received refresher training on lifting techniques since initial apprentice training or on the job experience.
Some PG&E job packages for electric crew work are showing reports of naturally occurring asbestos with mitigation instructions. Crews are not sure what they are supposed to do for mitigation and have asked for clarification from the industrial hygienist.
Crew discussed an incident in which they were grounding a primary neutral and drawing an arc. The IBEW Safety Committee discussed how differential voltages can be present, depending on how far from a station the grounds are being installed. One option is to open the neutral with flying bells only on a radial feed to a dead end and in conjunction with company instructions.
An incident was reported in which a crew was transferring energized 12kV and got it into the 115kV, relaying the line. The report included a contributing factor related to the men doing transfer losing perspective in relation to location of transmission line, and no one observed or warned crew from the ground.
Crew foreman was checking secondary voltage after an install of a 120/208v service and at the meter socket showed only 60 volts. After checking at several other points along the feed, checked it against a known source and got same voltage and determined that the battery on the Fluke meter was weak, causing the low voltage reading. The committee discussed that Fluke meters, although usually very reliable, can after years of service have loose or broken internal components that can lead to more hazardous potential risks than just low voltage readings. It is a good practice to inspect a meter occasionally and replace it when damaged.
On November 8, a tree trimmer ascending a tree fell 10’ to the ground receiving multiple injuries, including an injured shoulder, side, both wrists, a broken finger and lacerations to his face and ear. He was transported to the hospital for treatment and released the same day. An investigation has already been concluded and tree company employees will be briefed on the details of the accident.
On December 1, Arbor Works employee Nash Mayer was killed when struck by a tree being felled during clearance work. Arbor Works is a sub-contractor to Utility Tree Service. Both companies are doing tree removal for PG&E on hundreds of trees that have been killed by drought and bark beetle infestation. Brother Mayer left behind a wife and 10 children. IBEW Business Representative Abel Sanchez is a member of the serious incident and fatality (SIF) investigation team assembled to find the contributing factors and root cause to the accident.
On December 15, a tree trimmer working for Wright Tree on storm work was seriously injured when he was struck by a branch or cable tv line. The accident is currently under SIF investigation, but preliminary reports are that the accident happened near Eureka and the trimmer’s injuries are to his face and eye. He was transported to Mercy Hospital in Redding and then on to UC Davis for more specialized care.
The California Department of Industrial Relations announced that Cal OSHA will be stepping up the inspection and citation process for tree trimming companies. This focus is in relation to four deaths and numerous injuries that occurred in the tree trade in 2016. According to the release, of nearly 70 accidents involving tree work within the last two years, 74% resulted in hospitalization and 12 workers were killed. Two fatalities cited involved Local 1245 members.
A tree trimmer pulled a muscle, but was advised by supervision not to report the incident. The employee didn’t report and was put on modified duty. He later asked a co-worker what the risk of not reporting might be and was told that companies will attempt to keep injury reporting low but an employee who does not report has no recourse if the injury becomes greater or does not go away. The committee recommended that even minor injuries should be reported, and if the problems goes away no harm done, but if it gets worse, the employee is covered.
A close call happened when a tree trimmer was spotting for a driver who was backing up and the spotter fell down and was almost backed over by the chipper. The driver, not seeing the spotter, should have stopped backing up. The Local 1245 Health and Safety committee discussed an incident in Placerville years ago in which an employee backed over a coworker and severely injured the employee. The circumstances were a bit different, but in that case,the injured employee eventually died from his injuries.
Keep the Clearance added three new committee members to replace vacated positions. Nick King from Family Tree in Laytonville was appointed in October, along with Danny Garcia with Utility Tree in Fresno and Cedrick Thomas who works for Trees Inc. in Bakersfield.
Tree Supervision Roundtable meetings have been scheduled for the year 2017. The first meeting will be on January 31 at the IBEW hall. Tree company supervisors, utility vegetation management, Keep the Clearance peer representative and 1245 business representatives attend this quarterly meeting to discuss safety issues related to tree work and review accidents and close call reports.
Frontier is laying off 1,000 mid-management employees nationwide. This event is expected to have a possible effect on some initiatives in development, including safety.
Frontier has a new rubber glove program, and gloves are secondary rated for 600 volts. Gloves are for use in SMUD and PG&E substations and solar generation sites, and employees are advised when to don and use gloves by the host employer. There has been no specialized training on glove use, but gloves are on site for Frontier employees as needed.
PG&E Information Technology (IT) LOB is currently embarking on a training program to upgrade safety training and certification for approximately 100 telecommunication workers. The program focuses on work in approximation to energized distribution equipment through hazard recognition, minimum approach distances and safe work practices. Qualified Telecommunications Worker assessments are planned for 40 employees in 2017 and 60 in 2018, and training is being conducted at a practice area constructed at the Livermore Training Academy.
The IBEW Health and Safety committee reviewed an electrical contact that took place at a public utility in the Central Valley in which a crew doing storm damage work elected to ground a four wire line, leaving the substation grounded primary neutral out of the ground scheme. The crew had elected to treat the primary neutral as a hot phase but did not cover the neutral or use rubber gloves. While untying phases to wreck out the pole top, the primary arm shifted, causing a lineman to come in contact between the neutral and a grounded phase. He received a severe shock due to the difference in potential between two ground points and was taken to a medical center and released later with no permanent injury. The company has investigated the incident and will schedule training on effective grounding.
A near miss in the SMUD meter department occurred when a meter in a rural area was sending an error report and two employees went out and noticed a cluster of bee hives near meter pole. The meter tech, being allergic but not having his epi pen, took precautions and took meter readings and found an unbalanced voltage. He did not notice until later that there was a primary wire down and he had stepped over it several times. The line was found to be dead later. The employee shared that he lost focus on the big picture because he was focused on the bee risk.
A line crew foreman at Modesto Irrigation District tore his bicep lifting a pole top. He had elected to lift the cut pieces of a pole and throw them in a trailer when the tear happened, leaving the ligament gathered into a ball by the joint of his arm. He is expected to be off work for two months.
Multiple crews were working on a UG loop, changing out old cable. They had switched out transformers, opened both ends of the feed for clearance points and grounded the dead line. All workers were in communication with the control center and each other by radio. On the go-back, grounds had been removed and foreman had crew stationed at cutouts but no permission to close cutouts. A crew member closed cutouts without notice by the foreman. The observer at the fuse location was an apprentice but did not stop the journeyman who closed in cutouts. The incident was reported as a near miss resulting in no injury or equipment damage. The journeyman was an experienced man and lack of communication was the root cause.
Other Safety News
IBEW Local 659 Member Fatality: IBEW 659 business manager reported the death of IBEW 659 member David Schrock, who was killed on Jan. 9 in an electrical contact related to a tree in the lines. The fatality took place in the town of Happy Camp in Siskiyou County and is currently under investigation. Brother Schrock was working for a contractor at the time of the incident.
Corrective Action Program: On November 23, business representative Rich Lane was invited to review and observe the Corrective Action Program (CAP) at the Concord RMC. This program is designed to accept, log and address safety issues brought to the program by employees throughout all lines of business. CAP team members receive reports of unsafe conditions, assign a risk level and direct the request for resolution to a LOB owner within a given time frame as required by the program design. The CAP program has been in place at PG&E for less than two years but according to Quality Operations Specialist Steve Fazil, a former SDG&E CAP member, a similar program has been in place at San Diego Gas and Electric for over 10 years, handling at times up to 100 reports a day.
National Safety Council Labor Division: The IBEW Health and Safety Committee will be attending the National Safety Council Labor Division meeting in Nashville, Tennessee April 2-6. The IBEW caucus will be on April 5-6. So far four committee members have committed to attend.
–Rich Lane, IBEW 1245 Business Rep